Chaska wins SPAMtown Challenge

Posted on June 30, 2014 by Erik Steffenson

I had the privilege of spending this past weekend at one of the biggest tournaments in the state of Minnesota, the SPAMtown Challenge in Austin. It was a four-day tournament featuring four pools of four teams including teams from out of state. This year the tournament featured teams from Westmont, Ill., Kewaskum, Wis., and Sparta, Wis. This year marked the 10th year of its existence, and running it all these years is John Frein – shortstop for the Austin Greyhounds.

How did this tournament get started?

“We (Greyhounds) went to a tournament in Indiana,” Frein said. “We got there and the tournament was just run terribly. We had no clue when we were playing, the fields there were not in good shape at all, and they had teams coming from all over the Midwest.”

It is quite clear that Frein has the motivation to run an elite tournament – so elite that teams have come from North and South Dakota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Omaha, Neb., and even as far New York to play in this tournament.

How does Frein get such competition?

“It started with the connections we made in Indiana,” he said. “I managed to keep in contact with some of the teams out of state after the Indiana tournament. Sure enough I got them to come out here and they love coming here because they have fun out here.”

Over the course of the weekend, the teams were hanging out and enjoying food and drinks. Everyone was enjoying the SPAM burgers (and yes they were delicious) while watching the action on the field. Despite the rain, The Tracey Blake Project put on a concert Saturday night under the tent and everyone around was having a good time.

A few rain showers here and there, but the tournament went on. In Pool A, the Austin Greyhounds won the pool with a 2-1 record and the luck of a coin flip (Shakopee was tied with Austin). The Greyhounds had an 8-7 win over Hayfield, 11-0 victory over Shakopee, and lost 12-1 to Shakopee.

Kewaskum WI A’s took Pool B with a 3-0 record with a 7-4 win over Westmont IL, 8-6 defeat over St. Paul Capitals, then topped it off with a 6-3 over the Austin Blue Sox.

Chaska Cubs won Pool C with a 3-0 record by winning 6-1 over Forest Lake, 8-2 victory against Rochester, then battled Sparta for the spot and came back from a 5-2 deficit to win 6-5 to advance to the semifinals.

Burnsville Bobcats beat out a very tough Pool D group with a 4-2 win over Tri City, walk off 4-3 win against Mankato (down 3-2 in the seventh), and then beat the defending champs Minnetonka 3-0.

In the first semifinal, Kewaskum scored seven runs in the first two innings and coasted to a 7-4 win over Burnsville. In the other semifinal game, Chaska scored three runs right away and never looked back as they beat the tournament host Austin Greyhounds 9-1.

In the championship game between Kewaskum and Chaska, it was a pitcher’s duel between Kewaskum’s Brad Young and Chaska’s Austin Labinsky. The A’s struck first scoring on a single by Jason Stroebel in the first inning. Labinsky would shut them down after that. Brad Young carried a perfect game into the sixth inning before letting up a walk that would turn into a run on a single by Tony Lane. This game went into the eighth inning where Tony Lane would drive in the go ahead run on an RBI triple and would score two at-bats later. Chaska finished the top half of the inning with three runs. Kewaskum managed to get one run in the bottom half of the inning but Chaska held off the rally to win 4-2.

Austin Labinsky went all eight innings allowing only five hits, one walk, two runs, and 4 strikeouts. Cory Poppitz, the catcher, was named MVP of the tournament for his performance throughout the tournament. Austin was definitely the place to be at this weekend and this tournament surely lives up to its hype.  

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